By STAFF/Portsmouth Daily Times
SCIOTO COUNTY- Over 2,000 students across the state will take their place in local courtrooms for the Ohio Center for Law-Related Education’s (OCLRE) 40th Annual Ohio Mock Trial Competition on January 27, 2023. Students will compete for a chance to move on to the regional competition which will take place on Friday, February 17, 2023.
Locally, the District Mock Trial Competition is coordinated by Sharee Price of the South Central Ohio ESC and Judge Howard H. Harcha, III. There will be 8 high school teams participating in the competition this year including: Chesapeake, Clay, Eastern Pike, Portsmouth West, South Webster, St. Joseph (Ironton), Valley and Wheelersburg. Local sponsors include: American Legion James Dickey Post 23, Velma Feagans, The Honorable Howard H. Harcha, III, Dr. Robert and Mrs. Chris Knox, Portsmouth Bar Association, Portsmouth Rotary Club, Southern Ohio Medical Center, and The Scioto Foundation.
Price explained that “For the past two years, this competition has been held virtually, but this year all local trials will take place in person at the Scioto County Courthouse located at 602 Seventh St. in Portsmouth. The first trials begin at 9:30 a.m. and end at approximately 11:30 a.m. and the afternoon trials begin at 1:00 p.m. and end at approximately 3:00 p.m. Audiences are permitted to attend the event and schedules will be posted outside the courtrooms on the day of the event.”
The 2023 Ohio Mock Trial case examines the complexities of school investigations into incidents of misconduct, specifically when the misconduct may have criminal implications. Fictional defendant Stevie Khan is petitioning the court to suppress incriminating statements they made during questioning by their high school’s Dean of Students and a School Resource Officer (SRO). Statements Khan made during the questioning led to a search warrant and their ultimate arrest for criminal trespassing, battery, and destruction of school property. Now, Khan is seeking relief, claiming they were in custody during the questioning, but they were not Mirandized before the questioning began. The state is asking the court to deny Khan’s motion, asserting that Miranda warnings were not necessary because Khan was never in custody, nor were they questioned by an agent of law enforcement.
OCLRE Mock Trial Program Coordinator Danielle Wilmot explains that this year’s case “asks students to grapple with a constitutional issue that is relevant to their lives, particularly in a time when School Resource Officers are becoming more common. They can see how the law applies to them as high school students, rather than learning about it in the abstract.”
Each Ohio Mock Trial team consists of five to eleven students who assume the roles of attorneys and witnesses to present both sides of an original, unscripted case based on an important constitutional issue. At the district and regional levels of competition, each team competes in two trials against opposing teams. Teams must win both trials, or the majority of their judges’ ballots, to advance to the next level of competition. More than 1,000 legal professionals serve as volunteer judges, competition coordinators, and team advisors. Ohio Mock Trial is Ohio’s largest high school academic competition and among the largest high school mock trial programs in the nation.
The Ohio Mock Trial District Competition is hosted in 23 counties throughout Ohio. The Ohio Center for Law-Related Education’s website has a complete list of teams participating in the competition on January 27, along with the location of each competition site. The website will be updated after the competition with a list of teams qualifying for the regional competition.
Teams that advance from the district competition will compete in the regional competition on February 17. Regional winners will compete in the state competition March 9-11. The 2023 state champion team will represent Ohio at the National High School Mock Trial Competition which will take place May 18-20 in Little Rock, AR, hosted by the Arkansas Mock Trial Foundation.
OCLRE is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization whose mission is to improve society by developing citizens empowered with an understanding of our democratic system. OCLRE is sponsored by the Supreme Court of Ohio, Ohio Attorney General, Ohio State Bar Association and the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio Foundation.
The Ohio Mock Trial program is made possible, in part, by a grant from the Ohio State Bar Foundation. For more information about OCLRE and its programs, visit www.oclre.org.